NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Life Lessons From My Mentor and Friend

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."

— Helen Keller

"There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met."

— William Butler Yeats

Two years ago this week, during this month of October, which is ironically Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my cherished best friend (since late childhood) and first mentor, Dr. Natalie “Nechah” Hochstein discovered that the chemo just stopped working. She learned that her days were numbered and accepted the news with the humor and quiet grace so typical of her actions and persona. 

Nechah started to feel quite poorly in October and began to rapidly deteriorate. After a valiant 3 year battle, she bowed out, and passed away. A mere two months later, in December 2012. I was with her on the last day of her life, and had a phone call with her a few weeks before, where she gave me some last minute advice and a personal request.

Become the writer about, and give voice to, other women startup entrepreneurs out there, seeking a bread crumb trail, seeking answers. 

That’s why I wrote my business book, The NICE Reboot, a blueprint for today’s entrepreneur. One seeking a better understanding of the practical and psychological aspects of today’s startup culture. I dedicated the book to her, and am working on launching The NICE Initiative in her memory. It’s also why I was inspired to start blogging here on Tumblr, on Wordpress, for The Huffington Post, for LinkedIn, and even for The Friendship Circle Blog of MI. 

Nechah’s life and teachings as a child psychologist, woman warrior fighting breast cancer, and a fellow startup entrepreneur, have profoundly impacted on the way I now approach things. How I see life,  the world in general, and the process of problem solving; as a professional woman, as an entrepreneur, and as a human being. How I view things like happiness, learning, introspection, and innovation

My own professional odyssey as an Autism Specialist and “techie” interested in the brain, gender, and tech, coupled with the journey I embarked on with Nechah (when she was first diagnosed in 2009), provided many life lessons on a variety of topics. After careful reflection, I realized that they can be watered down to three.

The same 3 lessons keep popping up for me whenever I think of her and start writing a post; possibly because of the way I do content curation, or the specific keyword searches I engage in, or the way my beloved Zite App is programmed based on my daily use!  

Nechah used to love telling me this famous quote whenever I questioned the need to try something new, think differently about a problem, embrace fear and change, and ignore the status quo.

It’s by Christopher Columbus and is relevant today, Columbus Day: 

"You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

Here are the 3 life lessons she taught me based on this quote: 

1. Crossing the proverbial ocean happens a lot in life, and must be seen as an adventure, the way teaching kids should always be viewed. So that the environment impacts you as much, if not more than you act on and impact on it. So that you can discard what’s not working and streamline.  So that you can let go of old ideas and let new ones in. So that you forestall inertia, cynicism, and stagnant thinking; all of which contribute to entrepreneurial perfectionist tendencies and fatigue. 

2. Happiness is a verb, one that manifests itself most when transversing new terrain figuratively and physically. One that depends on taking action and being proud of it. One that depends on honing one’s character traits and positive outlook. Both of which affect one’s mindset (thoughts) and attitude (deeds). Both of which are integral to the human process of self actualization, first posited by Dr. Abraham Maslow, and made popular again in today’s socially connected startup culture and social media circles. 

3. Reading voraciously, whether a paper book or on a tablet,  is a necessity, not a luxury, a life-long habit to empower you, help you create and live your personal brand, and nurture your mind. Reading helps you develop your inner landscape AKA Theory of Mind i.e. empathy and perspective. So that you increase your knowledge, emotional IQ i.e. empathy, and creativity; all of which are integral to entrepreneurial success. Especially in today’s tech-savvy, eager to learn, uber-competitive, and globally connected society!

Nechah taught me the truth in these words:

 ”Change your inner landscape and you’ll change your outer one!”

I will share more of Nechah’s Story and how it impacted mine, when I speak at the Generate Buzz LLC Panel Discussion on 10/28/14 in Roseland NJ; Creating Your Personal Brand.

I want to end with this excerpt from my book that’s resonating with me today, and will continue to do so as I try to honor Nechah and her teachings as I continue to work on launching The NICE Initiative

Nice —how to get started in business, developing an appropriate skillset and mindset that will steer their mission and business plans to build businesses that will be successful and leave a legacy

Informed —how to leverage humor, music, visuals, and storytelling in developing their marketing hooks to get customers

Competent —how to upgrade their technology IQs by using an iPad to help forge a path to create innovative services and products

Entrepreneurial —how to look for patterns to help them enhance their creative input, use public forums and social media to spread the word about their mission, and time the trajectory of their mission, understanding when to bootstrap, when to seek capital, when to trust their gut, when to find a mentor. 

This book <and endeavor> is dedicated to the memory of my best friend, first and most treasured mentor, Apple™ Techie/fellow Mac Girl from way back when, Trekkie pal, Buffy buddy, and all around hero, Dr. Natalie “Nechah” Hochstein Psy.D.  She was a true scholar, lady, and a brilliant analyst of human behavior. She effortlessly and elegantly taught me so much, from the time I met her in late childhood, until she lost her valiant battle to breast cancer, in December 2012. Most of all, she taught me to work hard, think like a child, laugh often, and readily share information with others in need. She was my sister in arms, my cheerleader, and my muse. She is sorely missed, but echoes of her vast wisdom live on; in my work and actions, on a daily basis. 

Best,

Penina

The Seat on the Rocket Ship: Embarking on The Startup Ride

"If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on."

— Sheryl Sandberg

"I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance".

— Steve Jobs

What’s your purpose? Are you headed towards it or away from it, with every choice, decision, and action you take?

This question has been on my mind since I started my own entrepreneurial journey in 2009 in the educational arena. It’s on my mind again this week. October 5th marked the 3rd anniversary of the untimely passing of Steve Jobs, one of the premier thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators of our time. One whose legacy lives on in the lessons we are still learning; how to actually fearlessly live the mantra “think different”, how to take action and  innovate better, and how to develop a more intimate relationship with technology while retaining our humanity. 

Aren’t these the very reasons for becoming an entrepreneur?

Embarking on the startup ride, especially if you are a woman today, takes drive, focus, creativity, and persistence; qualities Jobs had in spades and respected and sought out in others.

It also takes an understanding that a goal without a plan is just a dream.  

It is therefore crucial to engage in methodical planning re: your product/service launch, before/during/after you accept the ride on that proverbial rocket. It’s also crucial to set in motion other factors which affect your overall longevity and overall success. Basically, the only way to get a seat on that rocket ship is to carefully harness time and consider your answers to these questions: 

1. What’s your business idea?

• Why is it needed? What problem does it address?

• Where’s your ecosystem? Who are you targeting? Hoping to collaborate with?

2. What’s your branding and social media strategy?

• Which tech tools will you use? Where will you have a presence? 

• How transparent will you be? How consistent must you be? 

P.S. I will be speaking about this at the Generate Buzz event, “Creating Your Personal Brand” on 10/28/14 in Roseland NJ, together with 3 other terrific panelists! 

3. How will you implement it?  

• Where’s your seed money? What’s your cash flow status?

• What’s your networking strategy? Your emotional IQ and resiliency quotient? Your threshold for long hours and disappointment? 

Embarking on the startup ride, especially if you are a woman takes both soft skills and these traits: patience, flexibility, collaboration, tech-savvy, and great time management skills; all of which are actually within reach! We are already hard wired to view expectations and outcomes differently than men; and we approach problem solving and productivity differently as well. I wrote more about this in my book, The NICE Reboot, and speak about this regularly. 

So don’t be afraid of the unknown. Take action. Get on that rocket and enjoy the ride. Just don’t forget to pack your suitcase first. You can find the photos below on The NICE Initiative Pinterest Page

Best,

Penina

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Entrepreneurial Transparency is Not a Solo Act!

"If we take away all situational factors, male and female entrepreneurs are equal. But add in real life…and women struggle.

— Liesha Petrovich, PhD candidate in entrepreneurship and Micro Business Essentials Blogger 

"For us, we believe that transparency at its core is honesty, and it’s a value that we want to live by no matter what."

— Joel Gascoigne, Buffer Blogger

I recently read two different excellent blogposts that really resonated with me as both a woman and a ‘trep with social entrepreneur leanings. The first one was by one of my go-to thought leaders, Liesha Petrovich. She asked if we see ourselves as the hero or damsel in distress. The second was by Joel Gascoigne, who discussed the importance of having a startup culture of transparency; one that goes beyond its mission statement. 

Both bloggers are truly worth following. Both raised some important questions and provided much food for thought;  especially in light of the recent UN Week in Manhattan. The one where women/women’s issues were front and center….finally. The one where Emma Watson gave a moving, powerful, and game-changing speech heard all over the world. 

We startup entrepreneurs live in increasingly educational times where visual media is the new currency, and virtual mentorship abounds online. From learning what it takes to launch a product successfully to overcoming impostor syndrome, more female entrepreneurs are finally getting the long overdue opportunity to step out onto the world stage in droves- and contribute. It’s something I blog about often, and wrote about at length in my book, The NICE Reboot

We professional women, especially today, no longer need to “play dumb”, and hide our creativity and creative  pursuits by subterfuge or maintained inertia. We can stand united to foster a culture where women leaders are capable and much more common. We can use our hard-earned wisdom to inspire others. We can actively harness the power of self-knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge to more successfully develop habits that enable us to have better: 

• Work/life balance

• Time management and workflows

• Self-awareness and self-esteem

• Mindsets and attitudes about our entrepreneurial journeys and outcomes

Entrepreneurial transparency is not just a buzzword or way of talking, especially for those of us who understand that ongoing transparency leads to increased collaborative, collective doing. For those of us who believe that we ALL have the crucial responsibility to both ourselves and each other in the iEra to:

• Leave some kind of self-sustaining leadership legacy for others to follow and use to make a difference in both the immediate and far away ecosystem which are becoming more connected every day. 

• Learn and keep learning, even from a nemesis, so that we become more self-actualized and productive human beings; for our sake, and the sakes of those around us. 

• Legitimize personal branding as part of our digital avatar so that we use social media more meaningfully and effectively in the workplace and beyond. 

I will be a panelist at this Generate Buzz LLC event organized by the talented and tireless Sara Greenhouse on the evening of 10/28/14 in Roseland NJ, where I will touch on these ideas further. I invite you to connect with me prior on LinkedIn and Twitter, and continue the conversation. I invite you to join the journey for change and help me launch The NICE Initiative as a collaborative venture. We need you. It’s time. 

Entrepreneurial transparency is not a solo act, in truth it never was. Its success today hinges on networking and collaboration more than ever. And not just because of the connections forged, or problems solved.

Entrepreneurship at its core MUST be about purpose, not just profit, so that some of the world’s greatest challenges can finally be addressed, more effectively and ethically; by both women and men in the entrepreneurship arena. 

Best,

Penina

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The Less Traveled Road: Benefits in Entrepreneurship

"I invested in myself."

— Kathleen (Kathy) Fitzpatrick, Money Magazine September, 2014

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

— Robert Frost, Stopping By a Woods on a Snowy Evening, 1923

It’s that time of year again, when the new school year has begun, when the Jewish new year is about to begin, and when the leaves slowly start to shed their leaves and herald in a new season. A season of change. A season of colder weather resulting in increased productivity and indoor activities which can make it easier for technology to supercharge your strategy and  reinvent your business. It can also make it easier to be transparent  about your goals and implementation. 

For many of us in entrepreneurship, fall is a time where we women take on many new projects; personally and professionally, sometimes to our later dismay and detriment. It’s easy to make errors and get caught up in the moment and in the startup frenzy, such as the one Vanessa Loder mentioned in her presentation at WomanCon 2014 last week. Here are 3 quotes from her which really resonated with me as a fellow female entrepreneur who has also felt compelled to pivot: 

  • "I was climbing the ladder but realized it was the wrong ladder."

  • "I did it because it was a good business idea, but my heart wasn’t in it."
  • "Until you leave your comfort zone, you don’t really find out who you are and what you can offer."
I wrote more about the takeaways from the WomanCon 2014 event in my latest Wordpress post, which can be read here. I wrote about the need to regularly reevaluate and reboot in life, in my business book, The NICE Reboot.
In it, I make a case against perfectionism especially for women in the iEra. I also make a case for balancing humanity and technology to improve one’s quality of life. I even touch on what it takes to achieve a better quality of life and overall success. I discuss how to turn those who challenge you, and those events that challenge your optimism and attitude, into successful problem solving encounters. 
As I approach Rosh Hashanah and think about the new year ahead, I ponder and visualize what five things I would theoretically like to see happen on my own entrepreneurial journey: 
1. I’d like create a career that truly fits me. 

2. I’d like to increase my knowledge and skill set, and become more of an expert on a variety of topics so that I can further help others. 

3. I’d like to adopt a growth mindset that allows me to better embrace change, detours, new experiences, and the road not yet taken on my journey. 

4. I’d like to harness the power of technology while still retaining my humanity and sense of self while still being part of the collective.

5. I’d like to stay interested, stay curious, and stay hungry about what life has to offer and what I can learn to help me progress and remain in touch with my inner child and sense of wonder about the world. 
Taking the proverbial road less traveled by, at home and at work, can have far reaching benefits that extend beyond one’s ability to adapt and overcome failure. Taking the unmarked road, the detour, the lesser known one, and the seemingly random or cumbersome one can have a ripple effect. One that eventually changes the culture of your ecosystem. The one which you nurture through social media and networking. The one that you hope is a legacy that makes a difference; in your life and in the lives of others. 
Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year, and the opportunity to take the less traveled road, 
Penina

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United We Stand: A Message for Today’s Female Entrepreneur

"People are communicating more, but not a lot of people are connecting". — Lisa Marie Platske

"Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers."
— Paulo 
Coelho

Today I attended the inaugural luncheon of the Central NJ chapter of eWomenNetwork, organized by the effervescent and energetic Gloria Cirulli. The keynote speaker was Lisa Marie Platske, author of the great  book Connection. She shared her insights into the state of women in business today, and some of the unique challenges we face. 

Challenges which resonate with me; a speaker, a collaborator, and a self-professed maverick. Challenges I’ve been thinking about again, since we commemorated 9/11 last Thursday. Challenges I mentioned in my book, The NICE Reboot, which provides pointers about creating a pervasive culture, one sustained by values and an innovator’s mindset.

The present startup culture needs to be about purpose, not just profit. I think that’s why I’m a huge advocate of creating a digital avatar with meaning, with heart, and one that shares a positive message about the success and happiness today’s entrepreneur can achieve and share. 

If you ask me what are the two current hallmarks of female entrepreneurship, seen in countless women I’ve come across since I started my company, Socially Speaking LLC, in 2010, I would have to say: 

1. Collaboration is second nature

2. Happiness that’s almost tangible; resulting from being in the “driver’s seat”….resulting from a genuine love for what they do. 

Why?

I believe that women are hardwired to see teamwork as byproduct of change. I also believe that women make a real effort to present their authentic selves when trying to balance work/life, humanity/technology, and Me/We. I fully believe it when I hear other women, like Lisa Marie, tell us that today’s female entrepreneur is truly interested in furthering our collective:

• Influence

• Impact

• Income

The result? More women are creating networks, not just networking. More women are becoming rainmakers and unstoppable forces to be reckoned with; at work, in their communities, and in their personal odysseys. Those intended to craft a self-sustaining legacy that goes beyond leaving behind children.

I am in no way implying that family isn’t important. I fully believe that motherhood is still the bedrock of a civilized and humane society. But for today’s professional woman who juggles so many balls in the air, the idea behind “united we stand” takes on new meaning.

Especially in light of those of us who are trying to get ahead by emulating and playing by the same rules as men, instead of teaching them a thing or two. Especially in light of those of us of the Otherhood, who can teach our gender a thing or two about unity and empathy. The world needs more mavericks and women leaders who can alter history.

It’s time to birth and foster more philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and empathy; all of which need to be interwoven and embedded into one’s thought leadership; one of the most meaningful legacies a person can leave behind. 

That’s why I’m so impressed with the women I met today, and the nascent potential of the Central NJ Chapter of eWomenNetwork. “It takes a village” has never been more true. Especially in this Digital Age where being an “island” unto oneself is not only professionally counterproductive, but ethically questionable.

The women I met today took time out from their very busy lives and schedules to collaborate, commiserate, and curate resources and knowledge that can effectively change lives. I stand in admiration. I stand in awe. I stand united with the Sisterhood of women who are trying to make a difference; one luncheon at a time. 

Best,

Penina

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The Specs and Speculation About the Apple iPhone 6 Event: A Roundup

"You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward."

— Amelia Earhart

"Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future."

— Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was one of the great innovators of our time, who really left a mark. His interest in technology and design, and its relationship, spurred Apple to make some of the most beloved and innovative products used at home and in the workplace for better work/life balance for decades. 

Tim Cook has continued the tradition by unveiling specs for the iPhone 6 and the iWatch. With iOS 8 around the corner, it will be easier than ever for your fingertips to perform brain like calculations and to pay for stuff with your phone. It will be easier to monitor your health and fitness, share your devices as a family, perfect that selfie you just took, and sync your iOS devices with each other and with your Mac, using its new OS, Yosemite

The Apple Event may not have been available for live streaming, but people all over the world are still eagerly preparing for a Star Trek style watch and methodically preparing to switch to iOS 8 and de-authenticating Apps before selling their devices to purchase new ones.

We are officially living in the post Steve Jobs era although his legacy lives on, as does his famous commencement speech at Stanford, hidden in Pages for Mac. Apple has heralded in the Age of Digital Citizenship where Chic Not Geek is the new order of the day, and curiosity and creativity are marching in lockstep with productivity and success

What do the Apple Event reveals mean for the future of social media? For the future of women in tech, disrupting the status quo and leaving a bread crumb trail for other female entrepreneurs to follow? For the future of education and learning; something I wrote about in my book, The NICE Reboot? 

Time will tell but one thing remains clear…..that Chinese adage, “May you live in interesting times” is now a fervent wish, not a curse! The road not taken i.e the journey, is a reward in itself. 

Best,

Penina

The Truth About Our Shared Economy

"There is a book yearning to come out of me: about how we can build the new collaboration economy, and the role of ‘openness’ in our quest for efficient use of resources and as a driver of innovation."

— Robin Chase

"Life is not a solo act."

— Tim Gunn

I have always liked September. It’s a chance to start the year over, especially if you are in education like me. It’s a chance to get back in the saddle and tackling new projects and ventures after chilling out a bit during July and August. It’s a chance to learn and begin anew; personally and professionally.

Labor Day is over and the new school year is upon us. The summer of 2014 is behind us, although the temperature outside my window seems to indicate otherwise! All summer long here on Tumblr I have been blogging about entrepreneurial assignments meant to facilitate balancing humanity and technology and ultimately turning Me>We. I have provided 5 pointers and written about them in different posts. Here they are again: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.

2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.

3. Read more!

4. Play more!

5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.

I started to write about pointer #5 last week and wanted to continue here. We live in a new era, that of the collaborative AKA shared economy. One where the rules of engagement have changed, and the supply and demand seesaw of yesterday is no longer recognizable. Amidst all the changes is a pervasive cultural shift and attitude known as “paying it forward”.

I believe that paying it forward is as much a mindset as it is a course of action; something that behooves us to remember as human beings, not to mention entrepreneurs. It’s something that I’ve written of at length in my book, The NICE Reboot. It’s something to implement when creating meaningful communities that cross time and space. Ones where shared interests and these 3 cultural shifts are contributing to a new economic landscape.  

Social entrepreneurship goes beyond having a corporate social identity or following these 9 tips. It involves embedding widespread civic engagement  which allows people to use their compassion, talents, and achievements to pay it forward. It involves choosing what is right over convenient. It involves  customizing your service/product so that everyone benefits from the supply chain transformation. It involves getting creative about problem solving and addressing pain points collaboratively and methodically. 

In plain English, it’s all about giving back; something women entrepreneurs are especially mindful of, and actually do well. It’s why I am again working on launching The NICE Initiative.

It’s about taking steps to leave a self-sustaining legacy, an answer to that famous question (Walt Whitman, Robin Williams in the film Dead Poet Society, and again in Apple’s iPad Air commercial): 

What will your verse be?

I wrote about this powerful question in previous blogposts such as a recent LinkedIn post, which you can read here. I will most likely continue to expand on this in the future in whichever series of posts I write. I’ve deliberately asked this question of myself every day since my best friend/mentor lost her battle to breast cancer in December 2012.

For now, I want to share two insights I’ve had this summer on the truth about paying it forward: 

1. Having a shared purpose enables people to collectively grow and achieve autonomy. Read more on this here

2. Creating change is an incremental process that slowly takes root and then disrupts the status quo. Read more on this here

What other insights do you have?

Best,

Penina

Turning Me Into We: The Entrepreneur’s Journey

"Genuine leadership is what emerges when we are fully and freely ourselves."

— Betsy Myers, Take the Lead

"Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation."

— Simon Sinek, Start with Why

All summer long here on Tumblr I have been suggesting specific homework assignments and writing about them. They are designed to help entrepreneurs retain a sense of self while collaborating and problem-solving with others. They are designed to foster a legacy and gain new outlooks about life, and about the nature of entrepreneurship. Here they are again: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.

2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.

3. Read more!

4. Play more!

5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.

These pointers are based on my personal and professional experience. They are based on takeaways learned as an ed-tech consultant, public speaker, and educator/pediatric speech-language pathologist and Autism specialist turned social entrepreneur. They are also based on my ongoing belief that the startup journey is ALL about: 

• Balancing humanity and technology; the topic of my business book, The NICE Reboot, which you can learn more about here

• Discerning patterns to increase creativity; the topic of my latest article for The Huffington Post, which you can read here

If you had to write an open letter to today’s entrepreneur, what would you write about?

P.S. I wrote one last week on Wordpress, and you can read it here

If I had to write another one, I would write about the lessons learned the hard way, and learned by having an uncool startup. I would write about how collaboration drives innovation. I would write about the much needed pursuit of social entrepreneurship, which is different than social innovation. I would write about the crucial ‘trep mindset; turning Me > We.

Attention women entrepreneurs: Choose to pay it forward! Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others. 

Why?

1. Thought leadership, whether in real time or online, is the key to creating a hub, an ecosystem, where collaboration can truly make a difference. 

2. Thought leadership, whether through speaking or writing, is the vehicle through which an entrepreneur can showcase his/her humanity in an increasingly high-tech world. 

3. Mentorship has an ever expanding reach thanks to social media. More than ever, it can impact on our strategy to provide a service/product others can learn from and use to pay it forward.

4. Mentorship fills in the gaps re: skills entrepreneurs won’t learn in school.

There is a persistent myth that leadership only applies to boardrooms and classrooms, something Betsy Myers writes about so well in her excellent book, Take the Lead. In truth, entrepreneurs, especially women founders, are in a great position to become real leaders, not just bosses, and forever change the playing field….

• To be role models and lead the next generation

• To  give and contribute to the shared economy

• To  be successful and help others become successful too

Women are intrinsically hardwired to measure success by how much of an impact they have on community, not just themselves and/or their family. The Digital Age and shared economy are further causing us to rethink success and civic engagement, and their effects on work/life balance. Men are also rethinking work/life balance and the importance of turning Me > We. 

Are you? 

To be continued…..

Best,

Penina

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Play= Happiness

"Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself."

— Alice Walker

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

— Mahatma Ghandi

(Want more quotes on happiness? Click here.)

I’ve just returned from a digital detox the past few days, where I took a vacation, a partial time out. I took a mini-break from the routine of my life, from all my social media channels and hats, and from the constant hustle of entrepreneurship. I see things differently, feel things more intensely (while paradoxically being more mellow!), and have learned some new things about the world, and about myself. I’m also much happier about the path I’m on; personally and professionally. 

For many of us, the glorification of busy has become a way of life, eroding our work/life balance, our happiness, and even our ability to truly make a difference and leave a legacy behind. Maybe that’s why my book, The NICE Reboot, is all about balancing humanity and technology. Maybe that’s why I’m a huge advocate of play, one of the homework assignments I’ve suggested here on Tumblr in my current series: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.

2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.

3. Read more!

4. Play more!

5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.

Play More!

As a pediatric speech therapist and someone in touch with my “inner child”, I’ve always valued taking time to play. Play is the vehicle for both self expression and personal growth, as children and as adults. It leads to increased happiness, increased productivity, and increased creativity; all of which are crucial to today’s success in entrepreneurship. 

That’s why I was so saddened by the sudden passing of Robin Williams, whom I wrote about in my latest LinkedIn and Wordpress posts. Robin was a connoisseur of both the art of play and of human nature. He had the unique ability to harness time (especially comedic timing) and showcase both the humor and pathos of our daily lives. He brought much happiness to many who saw his incredible films and crossed his path. He taught us so much about diversity, perseverance, and play. 

Play is something that can and should be honed, on a regular basis.

It replenishes one’s “battery” on so many levels. Why? Because it taps into our episodic memory and our physical, emotional, and intellectual sides; sometimes simultaneously. Play is thus the byproduct of the intersection of happiness and creativity, that elusive alchemy needed for the origin of ideas.

An entrepreneur in today’s startup culture NEEDS to make time for play:

1. To exercise the imagination, the most important business skill to hone.

2. To impact the future of work and gain an edge over the competition.

3. To discern patterns and disrupt them, so that outdated cultural tropes are eliminated and new ones take their place. 

Play= Happiness. Happiness leads to increased drive and subsequent success. Success, no matter what one’s definition of it is, is what learning and living is all about. Real living starts to happen when you find happiness by having the courage to let go of what you can’t change.  

Play is about choosing happiness, living in the moment, and riding the wave that makes you reboot. 

To be continued……

Best,

Penina

The Art of Play

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.”

— Louisa May Alcott

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once that child grows up."

— Pablo Picasso

As you may know, my current series here on Tumblr has been exploring the summer homework I previously suggested for entrepreneurs: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.

2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.

3. Read more!

4. Play more!

5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.

Last week, I began to address point #4 and asked this question: 

Can play and productivity co-exist in entrepreneurship?

You can catch up and read it here. I’ve been an advocate of play both professionally as an Autism Specialist and personally as an entrepreneur for a long time. I’ve written about the importance of play in various blogposts and in my book, The NICE Reboot.

But I haven’t truly lived it for a while. Like many bootstrapping startup entrepreneurs, I have been trying for over a year (since I knew my book was going to be published by Maven House Press) to burn the candle at both ends, balance work/life responsibilities and goals, and still find some “Me” time. Time to unplug. Time to strategize. Time to learn. Time to regroup. When I saw that certain business ventures didn’t pan out, and that I had a choice how to handle my setbacks re: launching The NICE Initiative both in terms of productivity and attitude, I knew that it was time to take off some time to reboot.

Again. 

So I want to share 3 insights and several links about the art of play…..

I write about this now during the height of summer, at a time when many of us are on autopilot. At a time many of us are trying to align our digital avatars with our real time personae….. and all the hats we wear in between.

Many of us are trying to better manage stress  brought on by juggling. By our attempts to create more optimal work times . By our attempts to better balance humanity and technology, my raison d’être as an entrepreneur. 

It’s time to face the reality that our brains work best in more natural, organic environments, and that many of us are losing the battle to find that balance and milieu. It’s time to admit that multitasking isn’t good for us, and that the iEra balancing act can play havoc with our learning, our creativity, and our game face; the one I wrote about in my latest Wordpress post. 

Hence this post on the art of play. Much has been written on the art of war and entrepreneurial lessons, some of which you can read here. This interesting post touches on another war; the silent war between women in business, and is about the art of collaboration between women to help more attain success; a caveat to my latest Wordpress post (see link above).

But what about the art of play?

Why is it something for today’s entrepreneur to think about? 

1. Play increases our innovation. Taking time off to play allows the brain to “connect the dots” in new, unexpected ways instead of following the crowd; toxic for entrepreneurship. 

2. Play increases our undivided attention. Taking time off to play reacquaints oneself with one’s inner child who pursues a task with rigorous intention and focus instead of multitasking; detrimental to entrepreneurship. 

3. Play increases our tolerance for uncertainty and chaos. Taking time off to play helps us embrace the mess instead of pursuing perfectionism; the bane of entrepreneurship. 

So take time off and get out of your routine and comfort zone like me. Take time to play. Make a play date or two and see what happens; within yourself and to those surrounding your “circle of influence”. Start learning the answer to that question that you hear, if you listen closely, if you are mellow enough, and patient enough, to truly live in the moment and concentrate:

Who do you want to be?

(Thanks Alan Ristić for this awesome quote and photo!) 

Everyone gets on a soapbox about the importance of play, especially in education. I believe that more of us in entrepreneurship need to sound the call as well, and ask this very question! 

To be continued……..

Best,

Penina

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Can Productivity and Play Co-Exist in Entrepreneurship?

"Playful moments are really learning opportunities in disguise."

— Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Dr. Roberta Michnick- Golnikoff, Authors: Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

"Cell phones, mobile e-mail, and all the other cool and slick gadgets can cause massive losses in our creative output and overall productivity."

— Robin Sharma, Author: The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life

I’ve always been a visual learner, which is probably why I was drawn to helping children with Autism and drawn to Apple™ tech. It’s why I’ve been a Fem Geek/Techie and Mac Girl since I was a kid, before Goldiblox, Scientist Girl Lego, and Entrepreneur Barbie made their respective debut. it’s why I became a fan of social media and a professional iPad Evangelist since 2011. It’s probably why I wrote my book, The NICE Reboot; a visual and methodical primer for today’s woman entrepreneur. 

Suffice it to say, when Apple recently launched its latest iPhone Ad about streamlining one’s daily routines entitled “Dreams” (a misnomer if you ask me), I was stoked. I was initially impressed; albeit from a marketing perspective re: emotional resonance and aesthetics. But upon closer inspection, I began to feel a real sense of disquiet. A real sense of unease about the message it’s sending; especially to our future generation of children who need to grow up to become the rain makers, game changers, and innovators our world so desperately needs. I think the commercial should instead be renamed “Ode to Non-Stop Work”. I found this tragically funny, spot on article on CNET which backs me up (although I thought of this before seeing that post!). 

Which brings me to point #4 in the current theme I have here on Tumblr;  homework assignments for the entrepreneur. You may recall that this summer I suggested 5 homework suggestions for the entrepreneur, and have been writing posts here based on that list: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.

2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.

3. Read more!

4. Play more!

5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.

Today I want to focus on this assignment:

PLAY MORE. 

I’m a known, vocal advocate of play, and of combing toys and tech in education; especially special education. I believe that play does matter, and that for children, free play IS the best summer school. But I believe that for entrepreneurs in particular, play IS the best homework assignment to take seriously. Play is something that needs to be scheduled deliberately and creatively, in between racing to cross things off our to-do list, maintaining communication with our colleagues and clients, and planning/pitching to future clients in real time and online.

It’s getting harder and harder for today’s entrepreneur to concretely juggle work/life and reframe success/failure. Especially within an arena where personal productivity is achieved in small increments, requires a level of tech savvy previously unseen in the workplace, and subsequent  happiness is relatively subjective.

Entrepreneurs are trying so hard to impact our globally connected yet psycho-socially fragmented culture. We try so hard to implement changes in overall thinking and doing, through our service/product we present to the world. It therefore behooves us to remember that always working does NOT mean working well, and that PLAY is the key to long term implementation of our mission, of our product/service. Why? Because play hones our critical thinking and creativity. It’s the ultimate checks and balances needed to navigate the startup maze and the workplace labyrinth becoming more confusing every day. 

Play is the vehicle through which one gets reacquainted with different aspects of one’s persona, drive, and parts of one’s psyche. Play helps us accesses episodic memory which is needed as a frame of reference, especially in these rapidly changing times. Play enables us to thus combine old learning with new learning. It’s something I discus in my Socially Speaking™ Seminars and something written about in a terrific book I’m almost done reading (and plan to blog about on Wordpress).

In Creativity Inc. specific and surprising strategies are eloquently discussed, in laymen’s terms, which utilize play. The result? Getting in touch with one’s inner child, to redefine inspiration, problem solving,  and ultimately productivity in the workplace. The book makes a lot of sense and is a primer of sorts about collaboration; one of the key skills needed in today’s iEra and shared economy. The book gives some very interesting food for thought about the nature of learning, the nature of growth, and the nature play. 

The nature and process of play helps one harness creativity so that better problem solving can ensue. Today’s entrepreneur needs to remember this, so he/she can learn to discerns patterns that lead to better self actualization and innovation. Entrepreneurs need to take time to play. So that creativity and problem solving can be honed. So that he/she can reboot the attitude & balance between humanity and technology. 

This has formed the foundation of my mission and  my raison d’être for launching The NICE Initiative. This has formed my conduct as both an educator and entrepreneur.

My beliefs have led me to these 3 lessons I want to share about play: 

1. Play helps fuel imagination; the MOST essential business skill to hone in today’s Digital Age where automated tasks and machine learning is becoming the norm in some workplaces, forcing humans to compete with robots/tech for jobs. 

2. Play helps fuel our dreams AND our ability to make them happen; especially in the startup arena where low costs and ubiquitous virtual mentorship and tech abound. 

3. Play helps fuel an appreciation of “living in the moment” and  internalizing our experiences i.e. learning from the process. It’s something we all need to ponder seriously, and not just because of the “mindfulness kick” so many are on. We need to counteract the reality that our present startup culture is all about forecasting the future and sprinting to the finish line/the outcome, instead of enjoying the journey. We often miss out on the subsequent sequential and incremental growth, which results from taking our time and deliberately taking detours to keep learning, keep innovating, and keep our mindset, attitude, and outlook fresh. 

We all need to take time to play. So that we can shape our Theory of Mind and reshape our attitude about what’s important in life. So that we can improve our soft skills which are so needed in this post social media era. So that we achieve better work/life balance and real productivity, instead of glorifying the state of being busy.  

As we grow into adulthood the nature of our play may change, the time allotted for play may shrink, and the toys may become more complex (not to mention expensive!). But the underlying purpose, practice, and process remain the same.

Play is what reshapes our attitude; the difference between an ordeal and an adventure. 

To be continued……

Penina 

Three Questions for Entrepreneurs to Ask

"Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers."

— Former First Lady Laura Bush

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things."

— Former CEO of Apple™ Inc. Steve Jobs

This summer I suggested 5 homework suggestions for the entrepreneur, and have been writing posts here on Tumblr based on that list: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.

2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.

3. Read more!

4. Play more!

5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.

I’ve already addressed points #1 and 2 in my previous posts. You can go back to my 4 digital detox tips to see what I mean. You can catch up on last week’s post with this awesome Infographic about crafting a digital footprint that goes viral. Today, I want to address point #3, which I will probably address next time as well: 

READ MORE! 

I still remember my junior high school teacher’s booming voice and summer directive for all the students on the last day of school, eagerly awaiting that last bell so they could gleefully shout “No more teachers, no more books….”. But I actually looked forward to going to the library and reading books for pleasure, for summer homework, and what my friends were reading so we could discuss it in our impromptu “book club”. Books are the only real thing you can buy that enriches your life. Reading is the secret weapon to counteract ignorance, inertia, boredom, and narcissism. Reading is a must for today’s entrepreneur who needs to stay current and stay sharp, so that patterns can be discerned, innovation can ensue, and these 3 questions can be asked and answered on a regular basis: 

1. What did I learn from this? 

I’m a believer that we are both student and teacher in life and that every day brings new opportunities for takeaways to analyze and internalize. Learning is a lifelong process and one can learn so much from reading; the most educational tool in a founder’s toolbox. Reading takes on new meaning in the Digital Age, where social media can provide profound, deceptively simple, sublime, and succinct lessons and sound bytes for the entrepreneur on the go. See this list of 40 quotes to get an idea of what I mean. Reading expands one’s Theory of Mind (outlook, perspective) and actually helps you get along with others. See this Slideshare deck I created of a post by Diane Bertolin on 5 takeaways she got from reading my book, The NICE Reboot. Thanks, Diane! 

2. What’s my passion, my purpose, my loadstone?

Reading books, especially re: the creativity and legacy of great work people do, can be very insightful and inspiring, not to mention entertaining. That’s why I read a wide variety of books usually at the same time! It’s not unusual for me to be juggling several books and genres at once, either on my Kindle App and/or from the library, the secret arsenal of entrepreneurs. I also like to go to Barnes and Noble to browse, and I’m a big fan of finding free eBooks to read either using my Kindle App for iPad, or the native iBooks App. Here’s a free list of 8 eBook links to check out. I’m currently in the middle of reading several good books helping me ponder this question: Creativity, Inc. The Confidence Code: What Women Should Know, Insurgent,  Ali in Wonderland, and the Chopped Cookbook, just to name a few. The TV show “Chopped” has been on my radar for while re: this question. I just wrote about it in my latest post for Wordpress, which you can read here

3. What soft skills do I need to hone? 

Reading can be life-changing, depending on which book you open!  One’s skill set is nurtured over time, usually through action. But the intent to act, the desire and the strategy, are forged in thought, usually when one thinks about what one reads and combines it with the episodic memory of previous actions. That’s why soft skills are so fluid, and so crucial to today’s entrepreneurial journey, usually comprised of serendipity and intent i.e. the “Go Big or Go Home” Approach. An entrepreneur needs specific soft skills to facilitate resiliency and negotiation, both needed for the process AND the outcome. That’s why I suggested these specific soft skills to hone, in my latest article for The Huffington Post. 

There you have it; three benefits of reading and three questions to ask while reading. I find myself asking these three questions as a human being and as an entrepreneur, on an almost daily basis. They help me plot my course of action, stay the course, and navigate rough waters and bumps in the road. Reading helps me find answers to these 3 questions, as well as providing content curations and virtual mentorship about many more. It also helps me stay optimistic about the dance of humanity, and all its foibles. Most importantly, reading helps me “power up” and “power down”; two settings very familiar to today’s entrepreneur in our fast-paced startup culture.

The most important 3 credos I’ve gleaned from reading are:

1. Work hard and play hard.

2. Stay curious!

3. Give back. 

To be continued…..

Penina

What Makes Content Go Viral? The Ultimate Infographic for Entrepreneurs

"Even some of the smartest people on the planet, building some of the most world changing products in all of history, often forget that there are actual human beings on the other side of technology."

— Randi Zuckerberg, Author: Dot Complicated

"Smart phones and social media expand our universe. We can connect with others or collect information easier and faster than ever."

— Daniel Goleman, Author: Social Intelligence

I’m an avid reader, and thanks to my Maurice Pine Library (who is hosting a book signing for me today, thanks!), I often read several books at once. It keeps things interesting, and gives me good practice putting real and digital bookmarks to good use, and creating notebooks in Evernote, where I keep my clipped web links, notes, and misc. impressions of a variety of topics and books I’ve read. I’m currently reading the two books mentioned in the quotes above, and Creativity Inc. The latter was  mentioned in my  latest Wordpress post. In it, I asked this question:

Is entrepreneurship a work of art or a work of heart? 

It’s a theme I’ve explored in previous posts I wrote here on Tumblr, there on Wordpress, and even for my column on LinkedIn and The Huffington Post. It started when I wrote my book, The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur .

In it, I discuss balancing humanity and technology in today’s startup culture and social media marathon. One which is an endurance race to gain a customer’s attention span and loyalty. One where entrepreneurs in particular need to know about two buzzwords; social currency and behavioral economics, and how to creatively and methodically wield these new tools of the Digital Age. 

That’s where today’s question comes into play: 

What makes content go viral? 

I am known to be a social entrepreneur, who didn’t go into entrepreneurship for the money. But I am also well aware of the current state of affairs re: the shared economy, the rise of consumer power, and the continued glass ceiling women in entrepreneurship have to contend with. That’s partially why I try so hard to learn about marketing, and to find time to blog about it and other related topics. It’s important to me to leave a bread crumb trail for the Sisterhood; so needed in today’s iEra! 

I’ve already shared tips and insights into content curation and content creation, but now want to share tips re: the next step of content marketing; virality.

It’s something ALL of us need to achieve as entrepreneurs. Whether one is a service based entrepreneur like myself or a product based entrepreneur, it is always on our minds and to-do lists. I thus want to share this post with you which has excellent, succinct tips on fostering viral content….

Best. Social Media. Content Marketing. Infographic. Ever. 

It dovetails nicely with one of my NICE Initiative Seminars, Crafting a Digital Avatar with Heart, which will be the topic of my library talk tonight. 

I want to thank Diane Bertolin, fellow female entrepreneur and blogger, for putting this article on my radar today. It’s SO great that I am dedicating a post to this link alone! It’s already saved in my Evernote notebook and in my Pocket App :-) 

I want to thank fellow Twitterati, Liz M Lopez, for sharing the first picture below, “Social Media Explained” on LinkedIn last week, and putting it on my radar as well. It’s a funny look at the various digital platforms out there. It gives one food for thought about viral content, and how to tailor it through different channels. I already posted it on this board, my NICE Initiative Board, on Pinterest :-) 

Best,

Penina

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Are You Following the Breadcrumb Trail or Creating Your Own?

"My advice to people looking at my life is not to follow my footprint but to go out there and make their own."

— Jackie Joyner- Kersee

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my first post in this Tumblr series about Summer Homework for Entrepreneurs I listed 5 suggestions. They are based on my NICE Initiative philosophy and story, and my ongoing mission to balance humanity and technology. Here they are again: 

THE NICE INITIATIVE SUMMER HOMEWORK:

PENINA’S POINTERS:

1. Take time to regularly unplug from technology this summer.
2. Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.
3. Read more!
4. Play more!
5. Choose to pay it forward. Agree to provide thought leadership and real/virtual mentorship for others.
I started expanding on these 5 pointers here, while taking time to continue learning and applying, while also unplugging at regular intervals. I have seen first hand, that by changing my inner landscape, I can change my entrepreneurial outcome over time. I have seen that this is especially important when deliberately choosing which online content I will be curating, which experiences and actions I will pursue in real time, and which social networking and relationships I will be cultivating both online and offline for increased growth; mental and emotional. That’s why the second suggestion I gave in this series is: 
Rethink your digital footprint, especially if you are a blogger, and back off a bit and/or mix it up a bit.
I’ve written about this before in my various blogposts, and in my book, The NICE Reboot, but it bears repeating here again. 
Having a planned digital footprint which includes some type of blog is integral to today’s entrepreneurship, especially for women ‘treps. Why? 

1. To authentically show transparency re: company culture

2. To consistently integrate digital marketing with the overall mission 

3. To easily access/provide a crucial virtual mentorship and collaboration tool which yields:

• Emotional resonance by showing other viewpoints and that you “get” them, especially when you cite other people’s posts in yours. I call this “connecting the digital dots in the iEra”. It’s how we learn, how we partially display social media etiquette, and how a woman in business can subtly display her cooperation and  emotional intelligence skills. Also, it happens to be one of my signature blogger moves i.e. stylistic structures (as well as providing 2 quotes to start each post:) which I employ for more interesting writing! 

• Much needed thought leadership on the power and pitfalls of today’s startup culture….especially for women founders! 

So how can women bloggers in entrepreneurship better walk the tightrope between marketing their service/product i.e. promo-selfies and displaying their unique voice? How does one imbue their digital footprint with meaning and individuality?

There is much chatter in the blogosphere about best practices re: one’s social media wording, web traffic, and marketing campaign strategy. There is less chatter about practical, easy, and free ways women in business in particular can both follow a breadcrumb trail and create their own, so that others learn valuable lessons about what it really takes to succeed in today’s startup culture, and how success is perceived. So that we can contribute to the ongoing debate about whether or not entrepreneurship is learned by doing or taught by seeing

Here are Penina’s Pointers re: Digital Breadcrumb Trails for ‘Treps: 

1. Consider blogging and sharing/citing others’ posts, to show that you are NICE (Nice. Informed. Competent. Entrepreneurial).

2. Consider writing book/misc. reviews for Amazon, and use your business signature! It’s OK to brag a bit. Be a micro-blogger and critic! See this sample of various reviews I’ve done on Amazon, using my business account. (Yes, entrepreneurs should have a personal AND business account for less confusion, two wish lists, two different credit cards on file, and an easy way to positively expand your digital footprint!) 

3. Consider creating a YouTube or Vimeo channel with trailers. Be a visual storyteller and get in touch with your creativity and tech-savvy! Prepare yourself for giving a TED Talk one day…oh wait, that’s my dream :-) 

4. Consider joining Twitter and Google+,  and becoming part of different “communities” and forming your own ecosystems. Be both a student and teacher of the universal classroom created by social media! Be strategic about your social media presence, especially if you are a woman founder!  P.S. There’s life beyond Facebook, especially since the recent algorithm changes means that your business page may not be getting the reach you wanted. I had that happen on Facebook, but I am really loving the engagement I’m getting on Twitter and Google+. Both channels are also a great way to curate content i.e. do “social listening”! 

5. Consider uploading attachments on your LinkedIn profile, white papers etc. and create a co-existing Slideshare account that uses your LinkedIn password for access. Be helpful! I actually share my decks and others too, in my Public Evernote Notebook of Free PDFs, which is linked to my website.

6. Consider becoming active in social causes and publicizing the good work these organizations do. Try guest speaking and guest blogging. I am a big supporter of Autism advocacy and have a monthly column in the Friendship Circle Blog. I am also a big supporter of our American library system and will be speaking at this library on 7/21/14, about the breadcrumb trail of social media, and of the important roles libraries in general play re: breadcrumb trails for all entrepreneurs. 

I will leave you with this excellent post about 5 questions to ask yourself re: leadership, which I believe is both an active and passive (digital footprint) process. I also believe that these are 5 crucial questions to ask yourself about your entrepreneurial (and blogger) breadcrumb trail….the one you create by first following others; online and offline. 

To paraphrase the awesome Apple™ iPad® ad: What will your verse be?

To be continued…..

Best,

Penina

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